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Jefferson Park 'Gateway' Apartments Get Go Ahead From Zoning Committee

By  Alex Nitkin and Heather Cherone | March 27, 2017 2:41pm 

 A rendering of the 51-foot mixed-use building planned for 5201 W. Lawrence Ave. in Jefferson Park
A rendering of the 51-foot mixed-use building planned for 5201 W. Lawrence Ave. in Jefferson Park
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45th Ward Office

CITY HALL — A proposal to build a four-story mixed-use apartment building in the heart of Jefferson Park was approved by the City Council Zoning Committee Monday, setting the stage for construction to begin later this spring.

The proposal, which cleared the Chicago Plan Commission last month, is queued up for final approval from the full council on Wednesday. The underlying zoning is not changing, but the size of the project means it needed the committee's blessing to move forward.

The project at 5201 W. Lawrence Ave., proposed in 2015 as part of a "grand gateway" to the neighborhood, would sit 39 apartment units on top of a full floor of retail space, with 62 combined parking spaces for residents and shoppers.

More than a decade after a proposed 10-story tower was rejected for the site, 45th Ward Ald. John Arena invited developer Jefferson Park Residences LLC to take a second look at the location, he said.

"People said they didn't want 10 stories right next to single-family bungalows, but then you've got the Copernicus Center right across the street," Arena said in January. "So we got together and said, why not create a happy medium between the two, using the existing zoning as a guide?"

The Lawrence Avenue building is one of three multiunit residential projects near the Jefferson Park Transit Center that is poised to start construction this spring. A plan to build 48 units at Argyle Street and Long Avenue was approved by the City Council in December, and the commission will hear a proposal for a 15-story apartment tower at 4849 N. Lipps Ave. next month.

On Monday, Arena said the new development, set to be built on what is now a gravel lot across the street from the Copernicus Center, was an important piece of his effort to revitalize the area.

“When your front door looks like this, it is hard to attract developers,” Arena said.

But Ron Ernst, a member of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association who frequently criticizes Arena, said the project was too dense for the area.

Construction is likely to begin in late April or early May, according to Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff.